Once upon a “Gatsby”

Zachary Ford (Nick Carraway) in the Arizona Theatre Company production of "The Great Gatsby" (Photo: Tim Fuller/ATC)

Our oldest daughter Jennifer, now a cultural anthropology student at ASU in Tempe, was incredibly keen on anything and everything by F. Scott Fitzgerald during one particular year of high school — so we spent lots of time chasing some of his harder to find works.

I don’t remember feeling nearly as enamoured with the American writer who lived from 1896 to 1940, best known to many for coining the term “Jazz Age” and writing about its many manifestations.

It’s harder to love something when told we ought to do so, or when everyone else seems smitten with it — which might explain why I felt so completely unmoved while watching “The Great Gatsby” unfold at Herberger Theater Center Saturday night.

The company of the Arizona Theatre Company production of "The Great Gatsby" (Photo: Tim Fuller/ATC)

The performance was pristine and passionate, and embraced with genuine enthusiasm by an audience that laughed and let out knowing sighs throughout. But I just couldn’t go there. The characters are odd in ways I find completely unrelatable, unlike those in “The Glass Menagerie” performed during Arizona Theatre Company’s 2009-10 season.

David Andrew Macdonald (Jay Gatsby) and Monette Magrath (Daisy Buchanan) in the Arizona Theatre Company production of "The Great Gatsby" (Photo: Tim Fuller/ATC)

If the lingering effect of anesthesia somehow blunted my ability to feel this story, it certainly didn’t curtail my appreciation for the beauty of this production, which features some of the best lighting, sets and costumes I’ve seen here in the Valley. It’s well-acted and directed, making for a sort of master class in bringing great literature to the stage.

David Andrew Macdonald (Jay Gatsby) in the Arizona Theatre Company production of "The Great Gatsby" (Photo: Tim Fuller/ATC)

“F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby” is adapted by Simon Levy, and directed by Stephen Wrentmore. Scenic design is by Yoon Bae, costume design is by David Kay Mickelsen and lighting design is by Dawn Chiang. It stars Zachary Ford as Nick Carraway, David Andrew Macdonald as Jay Gatsby and Monette Magrath as Daisy Buchanan.

Few companies excel like Arizona Theatre Company in “theater as teacher” mode. Their play guides are interesting reads — especially in the case of “The Great Gatsby.” Explore it online if you’re eager to learn more about the Roaring ’20s, the Prohibition era and the Jazz Age. Also what the ’20s meant for women’s rights and developments in New York City. There’s even a nifty timeline filled with truly fascinating fare.

I may never share my daughter’s insights into the world or writings of F. Scott Fitzgerald, but Arizona Theater Company is certainly inching me closer.

– Lynn

Note: Arizona Theatre Company performs “The Great Gatsby” at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix through April 8. Click here for details.

Coming up: Taking risks

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One response to “Once upon a “Gatsby”

  1. I love the Great Gatsby, amazing book. Your newfound and fledgling insight into the world of Fitzgerald reminds me why I fell in love with literature in the first place. Also, I just moved to Mesa about a week ago. So thank you for providing me with info for where this play is being held. I look forward to attending.

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